10 Years of r3.0 Conferences – Trigger Points for Activating Necessary Transformation – How to Activate Restorative Norms?

Edition 21 | August 2023

You may call this a ‘special edition’ of the Lighthouse Keeper, devoted to a flashback to 9 earlier and a looking ahead towards our 10th International r3.0 Conference. While programming this year’s edition, happening at a crucial point in humanity’s history in which we cross crucial thresholds, we put more rigour at what’s necessary to create the personal, organisational and systemic experiences and epiphanies for the tipping points we’re depending on.

From the outset, let me say that I am specifically proud of this year’s speaker faculty, helping us in stewarding the way. And needless to say, we hope you see this too and attend, simply because you might agree that it’s the best content that you can get in a conference this year! It is also a more personal reflection of 10 years of r3.0 conferencing. 

A Flashback At 9 Earlier r3.0 Conferences

As we are approaching this year’s 10th r3.0 Conference, and look at what we are curating there, it makes sense to look back from where we came. There have been many stirring moments in these last 9 conferences, and some really triggered r3.0’s further developments. This flashback carves out some of these moments most relevant for me (while not mentioning all the great moments in the interest of the length of this LHK), before we look ahead. I had never expected some of what was coming, so this journey is one of learning, openness to what emerged, but also resistance to those that try to obfuscate progress.

2013 (at the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin)

… was our very first attempt to find out if there was already enough appetite for a consolidation towards a context-based and consistent approach to sustainability. We succeeded – as far as we know for the very first time – to have all relevant players on one stage: GRI, IR, SASB and GISR (the latter was a hopeful attempt to immerse deeper into the raters, rankers and indices world, but stopped in 2016 due to lack of funding). There was a good level of basic agreement to adhere to sustainability context in a full room with 250 interested participants. At that time still called Reporting 3.0, we had high hopes of having instigated what was necessary, namely alignment towards sustainability context enforcement. I am picking this up here to demonstrate that all involved knew what was at stake 10 years ago! And they all failed us in this decade until now!

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Representatives of GRI, IR, SASB and GISR at the 2013 Conference

2014 (at the Microsoft Accelerator in Berlin) 

… our hearts jumped up and down when John Elkington presented his 3-dimensional ‘breakthrough reporting model’ (lateral, vertical, longitudinal), that supported our view of a context-based multicapital accounting, measurement and reporting framework, something that we by then strongly advocated for. Would the standards and the reporters pick it up or continue to deny what’s necessary? We know the answer by now, they did not.

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John Elkington presenting at the 2014 Conference

See the full 2014 conference report here.

In 2015 (again at the Microsoft Accelerator in Berlin)

… we were most impressed by the talks of John Fullerton from the Capital Institute and GRI Co-Founder Allen L. White. John delivered his ideas about ‘Regenerative Capitalism’, based on 8 principles laid out in Capital Institute’s White Paper,‘Regenerative Capitalism – How Universal Principles And Patterns Will Shape Our New Economy’, challenging unanswered assumptions of the existing capitalist system (exponential growth on a finite planet; markets will solve problems if we enhance transparency and get prices right; the firm is the right unit of analysis). John furthermore questioned the existing financial market assumptions (what are compound returns on a finite planet? What is relationship between stock of financial capital to stock of natural capital?). These unanswered assumptions and questions form the basis of a redesign toward a ‘regenerative capitalism’, building a healthy system, including the renewal of the finance system’s role. John remarked that we need to look at the firm just as a mere part of the ‘whole under management’. His question ‘what’s the unit of measurement in regeneration?’ was a true trigger point for us. Well, it’s the bioregion. This was the first time I heard of the concept, and it immediately clicked with me and has been valid and leading for me since 2015.

John’s talk confirmed the need for a closer connection of the firm as a part of the ‘whole under management’ (purpose, connectedness), a broader definition of success (stock value deriving from all assets used and accounted for, deriving to true future value; we would now call this system value); and the need for scalability for defining the size of the (regenerative) impacts possible under a new financial market regime with real investments bridging into a new economy, something that I earlier presented as the ‘New Impetus’ at this conference for the first time, and that is part of r3.0’s Reporting Blueprint since 2017, and highly relevant for company’s sustainability reporting structures. It is the essence of what people want to read in these reports!

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The first time presentation of what became the r3.0 ‘New Impetus’ for sustainability reporting

This paved the way for Dr. Allen White, co-founder of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), describing the journey from Reporting 1.0 to 2.0 to 3.0 in three different ways: from extraordinary to exceptional to expected; from information to intelligence to insights; and from fragmented to comprehensive to holistic. Reporting 3.0 in consequence would need to better describe the ‘character’ of an organisation, linking systemic risk closer to corporate risk, delivering resilience and robustness in a multi-capital framework, and allowing a more holistic view of the firm. Gosh, all of that was there in 2015 already!

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John Fullerton and Allen White at the 2015 Conference

See the 2015 full conference report here.

The 2017 Conference (at KPMG in Amsterdam)

… is noteworthy as it was the release year of the r3.0 Accounting Blueprint and Data Blueprint. Those releases gave rise to the hope that the accounting profession would now back up a more sophisticated multi-capital and context-based approach. Following the idea that ‘accountants would save the world’ (as the book ‘Six Capitals’ by Jane Gleeson-White indicated the year before) there was attention by KPMG, PWC and EY, surely also because one of the big 4 agreed to host us (and also did that in 2018 when the r3.0 New Business Model Blueprint and the r3.0 Transformation Journey Blueprint were released). This for me was another real trigger point. Unfortunately, efforts for activation got blocked by most players, from internal auditors and their lobby clubs, up to the big assurance providers for sustainability reports. Again, I am mentioning this here to document that all we needed to proceed was basically available at that moment already. Oh boy, reading our stuff from those years again blows my mind. 

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Representatives of the big 4 and WBCSD at the 2017 Conference

Read the 2017 full conference report here.

Fast-forwarding to 2019 (in Rotterdam’s Erasmus Pavilion)

… we saw the first attempt to go much broader (also due to our name change from Reporting 3.0 to ‘r3.0 – Redesign for Resilience and Regeneration’), and for many this conference was a ‘life-changing’ event. The opportunity to have Kate Raworth, Joe Brewer, Daniel Christian Wahl and Nora Bateson, exploring a full kaleidoscope of what’s necessary to understand a Doughnout Economy, a ‘system’s view of life’, the cultural evolution of economics, and an intro to ‘warm data’, all this so different and aside of the mainstream industrialized compound giving us a 2.5-4 degrees global warming world, was fascinating to explore. For me it clicked back to John Fullerton’s idea of ‘the bioregion as the unit of measurement’. A different world would be possible, we thought. And just a couple of months later COVID-19 hit.

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Kate Raworth, Daniel Christian Wahl, Nora Bateson and Joe Brewer at the 2019 Conference

See a full video library here (against a small contribution).

The 2019 conference was also the trigger for our 2020 and 2021 online conferences (full video availability here and here, again with super interesting speakers) that led to further deepening, so I’ll let you explore yourself. 

In 2022 

… we started to experiment with a mixed hybrid version and first used Amsterdam’s Pakhuis De Zwijger, a social enterprise with great broadcasting abilities for conferences like ours. With 750 registered online participants and 150 in-person attendance this was the by far biggest r3.0 conference, also due to an attempt to offer the conference free of charge. Well, that’s what we thought. What we had not expected was an impertinent 40% no-show rate, a fact that led us to stop with free of charge conference offerings. It seems that people, even sustainability experts, only really commit when they have to pay for value. A harsh experience for us, as we had asked everybody twice if they really planned to come, and had ordered food and beverage. But the good aspect was that it also helped to clarify who the real positive mavericks are!

Those that attended were over the top excited about the delivery of the sessions, both the fluent interchange of online and in-person speakers and interaction, but of course again the quality and breadth of our speakers (see full video gallery here). My personal highlight was the session with Vandana Shiva, Melanie Goodchild and Michelle Holliday. The level of emergence and ways how to connect, involving the Global South and indigenous communities into problem solving, became so evident. A real revelation. 

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Melanie Goodchild and Vandana Shiva at the 2022 Conference

But the 2022 Conference was also a remarkable point in r3.0’s history in many different ways. We released the ‘r3.0 Funding Governance for Systemic Transformation’ Blueprint, which for me closed a feedback loop for many of the existing economic system shortcomings and explains why transformation towards a regenerative and distributive economy doesn’t find the ecosystem funding it so urgently needs. We also celebrated our 10th year of existence as a network of positive mavericks. 

Just writing this makes me shiver again. We have done so much, achieved great growth in our network, and have very concrete recommendations for systemic transformational change. But activation is still the laggard. And that gets us right into this year’s Conference theme…

Activating Restorative Norms – Healing Harm, Collaborating for Change

This summer is another massive culmination point for negative tipping points. The massive heat waves in many parts of the world, creating uninhabitable areas (at 60 degrees on the ground a soil’s nurturing ability dies), massive flooding in areas that can’t take so much water due to earlier dried-out soil, boiling water temperatures in the oceans, governments unable to react (and see moves to right-wing parties if they try) to immigration caused by the triggers mentioned earlier, the Russian war against the Ukraine and increasing social stress waves are just some of the outcomes of negative trigger points. The term ‘polycrisis’ emerged out of this utter mess.

At the same time, we’re seeing a total disaster of the schemes that could have gotten us to sustainability. For example, I addressed an ‘implosion’ of the sustainability reporting machinery in the last Lighthouse Keeper and hinted at it in many earlier editions, a total betrayal engineered by co-optation and corporate capture. I addressed the failure of the SDGs in my Sunday Thought this week and got an unbelievably massive response (see below).

All this has become so clear and evident ‘by design’ (e.g. the public comment fakes of all the standard setters), but it took me until the beginning of this year that I personally decided to let go of sustainability reporting as a trigger for change, and no, accountants are not going to save the world. They do everything to nurture their incremental repetitive value proposition machines, the opportusultants of this world have no grip on what all of this means for their own regenerative business model design (hint: there is none). There is even mounting evidence that none of the existing institutions (nationally and internationally) can help. 

We need to think much broader and deeper. We need to become more ‘radical’ in our thinking. And we need to continue to do what positive mavericks like us always do – looking for third ways and not get dragged into dualistic discussions that deliver nothing.

This is something we observe all the time, and is part of the tactics of the incrementalists that wait for some magical revelation to solve it all for them.

So, what remains? How can we turn this ongoing #collapse into a world that prepares itself for a post-collapse time. This is what this 2023 r3.0 Conference will aim at. We address this in 4 distinct panels, and I am blown away by the speakers we’ve been able to summon around these four topics.

You will hopefully see the red thread we curated (with special thanks to my Senior Director colleague Bill Baue – a master curator), breathing collaboration between the Global South / Global Minority and the Global North (the latter please mainly in a listening mode) and that doesn’t shy away from the biggest issues we have to tackle, as expressed in the titles of these four sessions. Here they are:

RESTORATIVE ECONOMICS – Redesigning economies to thrive through regeneration & distribution

This Session starts from the understanding that the current predominant economic system — predicated on neoliberal ideology, perpetual economic growth, and colonialist extraction and oppression — is fatally flawed past the point of repairability. The inquiry thus focuses on multidirectional economic system redesign: namely, Restorative Economies that take accountability for — and actively heal — historical and ongoing harms; and Regenerative & Distributive Economies that achieve sustainability and justice in the nearest term possible. Four stunning speakers help us to explore this:

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Restorative Economics Panel

We will also share a pre-conference conversation with Nwamaka Agbo, MPAAgbo closer to the conference on social media.

See more info on the other speakers of this session: Hans Stegeman; Ashish Kothari; Elizabeth Yeampierre

MARGIN-CENTERED WISDOM – Natural & cultural evolution thrives in the fertile soil on the peripheries

This session proceeds from the notion that natural & cultural evolution thrive in the fertile soil on the peripheries. In ecosystems, for example, nature innovates on the boundaries, such as the fecundity of coastal estuaries. In human systems, coloniality has sought to marginalize traditional indigenous wisdom, and has tragically “succeeded” in destroying vast tracts of accumulated knowledge. But such wisdom retains deep resilience, and has tenaciously persisted. This sessions centers Majority World knowledge and perspectives that Minority World hegemony mistakenly marginalizes. But marginalized communities excel at transforming adversity into resilient brilliance, in part due to honoring the human capacity to grieve loss and yet persist (exemplifying the “abundant edge effects” Principle of Regenerative Vitality). This session, inspired by explorations in r3.0’s Global Thresholds & Allocations Network (GTAN) work, invites members of these communities to share their understandings with our diverse Conference community: 

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Margin-Centered Wisdom Panel

Also please see our r3.0 Medium article ‘What we at r3.0 are reading #4.’

See more info on the other speakers of this session: Beverly Longid; Lyla June Johnston

COMMON GOOD GOVERNANCE – Reorienting governance from individual ownership to collective stewardship models 

The sun is setting on governance by institutions that entrench the status quo to defend the territories they “own,” and rising on governance in service of collectively stewarding the commons to cultivate abundant resource flows in perpetuity. This session continues to build on the activation of r3.0’s Funding Governance for Systemic Transformation Blueprint that got released in 2022. See the variety of mesmerizing speakers that will shed a light on the new ways to design governance processes that are fit to a restorative and regenerating world: FairShare Commons, landscape-scale governance of the Commons, the Earthwise Constitution and how to unbundle property to return land and nature to the Commons. Can it be any better? Can it be more to the point of what’s needed?

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Common Good Governance Panel

Also please see our r3.0 Medium article ‘What we at r3.0 are reading #5.’

Please also find a first conference pre-conversation we had with Indy Johar from Dark Matter Labs here. We will also share a pre-conference conversation with Graham Boyd closer to the conference.

See more info on the other speakers of this session: Dr. Anneloes Smitsman; Zlatina Tsvetkova

TIPPING INTO PROSOCIAL NORMS – Triggering beneficial social norm tipping points to avert adverse tipping points

Social norms that reinforce antisocial outcomes (carbon hogging, extreme inequality, biodiversity destruction) and risk triggering catastrophic social & ecological tipping points, can be transformed by triggering beneficial tipping points into prosocial norms. 

Indeed, there’s an emerging line of thinking that Social Tipping Points (STPs), or rapid shifts in social norms, the glue that holds human communities together in common beliefs and behaviors, can help to avert the growing likelihood of triggering point-of-no-return climate tipping points (CTPs) and biodiversity tipping points (BTPs), along with societal and civilizational collapses.

Speakers in this session, which builds on r3.0’s thresholds & allocations work, explore the double-edged sword of tipping points.

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Tipping Into Prosocial Norms Panel

Also please see our r3.0 Medium articles ‘What we at r3.0 are reading #2’ ‘What we at r3.0 are reading #3′

We will also share a pre-conference conversation with Dr. Jennifer Loughmiller-Cardinal and her husband James Scott Cardinal closer to the conference. 

See more info on the other speakers of this session: Dr. Avit K. Bhowmik; Femke Sleegers.

There’s so much to learn, weave and experiment in this conference that will help clarify and show pathways towards a post-collapse world, and will also inform our next Blueprint Project, named ‘Blueprint Zero’, an extensive exploration of the ingredients and processes needed for a restorative economic system design. It will pull together learning of the last years and also add new joint learning of a global working group, starting late 2023/early 2024.

If all of this appeals to you and you’d like to experience it all first hand, here’s the ticket site. We would love to discuss with you, either online or in person.

Sunday Thoughts

As always, I’ll finish with the latest Sunday Thoughts. They are a huge success, attracting 20.000 – 80.000 views in 2-3 days per post. What’s so rewarding is the fact that there are profound threads with great comments below them. Here are the last three that got released since the last Lighthouse Keeper.

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The last three Sunday Thoughts

I’ve done a bit of analysis of where the readers come from for this latest one on the design failures of the SDGs. This is probably interesting, but maybe also to no surprise for you. See yourself, had you expected these outcomes? I can ensure it’s nearly similar every week. I can’t resist thinking that people at the big 4 and other big consultancies start to really grapple with the unsustainability of their business (that would also explain the supporting PMs by their staff to me), or I am now public enemy no. 1, just kidding ;-). I am probably just a corn of sand in the oiled machine.

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Who mainly reads the Sunday Thoughts

Be well, all of you, have a great summer, and have a fulminant start – at the September 12/13 r3.0 10th International Conference? I’d love to meet you all there!

The next Lighthouse Keeper will come out after the summer break in October!